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The anatomy of EndSars protests as an incomplete revolution (1)  

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EndSars

By Douglas Anele

Supposing an alien from another planet or solar system visits the earth with capacity to rank the various races of human beings according to their contributions to civilisation particularly in the last six hundred years or so, that alien would perhaps place the black race at the lowest grade.

And because Nigeria contains the greatest concentration of black people in the world (one in every four black persons is a Nigerian according to one estimate), a race that worked with European and Arab enslavers to sell their own people like commodities and shamelessly adopted the bizarre religions of their oppressors, it is probably not out of place to assume that that may be the reason the country has been retrogressing for decades.

The history of denigrating black people is long and heart-wrenching. Not only do the scriptures of Abrahamic religions contain passages that dehumanise black people, philosophers as enlightened as John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant and G.W.F. Hegel formulated tendentious arguments purporting to “prove” that the black race is inferior especially to the Caucasian.

One can make a plausible case that blacks somehow deserve being looked down upon by people from other races not least because of their proneness to self-abasing behaviour. That notwithstanding, according to the most reliable scientific findings the first homo sapiens were black people that inhabited portions of the African savannah before some of them migrated to other parts of the world.

Still the status of the negro race and black countries globally at the moment is really depressing, and the situation will remain unchanged in the foreseeable future unless black people organise and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps reminiscent of the resilience and revolutionary spirit manifested by Biafrans in the brief period Biafra existed as a country more than fifty years ago.

Now, one of the ways a group of people desirous of positive change in their existential condition actualise their aspiration is through radical socio-political re-engineering or revolution. Prominent examples include the French revolution (1789), the Bolshevik revolution in Russia (1917), the Chinese communist revolution (1949) and the Cuban revolution (1959).

The British colonial contraption called Nigeria is yet to witness a successful revolution. Ringleaders of the first military coup of January 15, 1966 claimed that they wanted to carry out a revolution to replace the old irredeemably corrupt political order led by Alhaji Tafawa Balewa and install as Prime Minister Chief Obafemi Awolowo whose socialist ideology was congruent with their agenda of radical reconstruction.

The failure of that coup hammered the final nail on the coffin of their dream for a better society. Before then Isaac Adaka Boro had led a rag-tag group of volunteers from the oil-bearing coastal areas in a failed attempt to create an independent Niger Delta Republic for his people.

More significantly, declaration of the sovereign state of Biafra in 1967 was a revolution intended to be a radical shift from crippling Fulani caliphate colonialism to political autarky for Biafrans, a point eloquently articulated in the 1969 Ahiara Declaration speech by Biafra’s leader Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.

The extent to which Chukwuma Nzeogwu, Emmanuel Ifeajuna, Adaka Boko and Ojukwu understood the uncertainties and dangers of revolutionary activism before making their move is a matter for conjecture or speculation. Nevertheless that the movements they led failed abysmally points to the fact that the strategy was wrong, poorly executed or that the proximate objective historical conditions were not ripe for successful revolution  – one may surmise that they misread “the signs of the times” so to speak.

Accordingly when Omoyele Sowere launched Revolution Now last year and it fizzled out shortly after the increasingly fascist and authoritarian federal government deployed law-enforcement agencies to neutralise and dissipate it, one wonders whether the fellow learnt any lesson from previous failed attempts to change the grotesque unitary political system that has subordinated southern Nigeria to the north.

It is obvious to every reasonable person except the dotards and sycophants in the opaque presidency and across the states that from 2015 Nigeria has regressed to 1984; in fact she is in the black hole of a purported democracy governed by an increasingly intolerant, fascist and authoritarian cabal with the worst record of nepotism and gross incompetence in Nigerian history.

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Several Nigerians who misread and hyperbolised the initial successes of the EndSARS movement thought that the much-awaited revolution was afoot. They did not reckon with the extent the vicious cabal in charge right now are willing to go to retain their stranglehold on power, including hiring layabouts to infiltrate the peaceful protests with violence which provides a convenient alibi or pretext to deploy irascible soldiers against unarmed civilians.

Before dealing with the EndSARS phenomenon as a half-hearted or failed revolution, it is instructive to analyse the concept of revolution first and ascertain why lack of a robust philosophical understanding of the essence of revolutionary praxis especially by those at the forefront often leads to failure.

For starters, the term ‘revolution’ was originally part of the lexicon in mathematics and astronomy, but it eventually became a heavily loaded notion in other domains of human activity particularly in socio-political affairs. It originated from the Latin word revolutio, a late medieval scientific expression connoting the cyclical sense of return or revolve, roll back, unroll or unwind.

The meaning of the word eventually shifted to signify a secular change often carried out with violence that creates a complete break with existing socio-political order. Generally, a social or political revolution is preceded by crisis indicated through a growing sense, often restricted to a segment of the society, that existing institutions are no longer capable of dealing adequately with the problems within the community that they have in part created.

More profoundly, it aims to change political institutions in ways that those very institutions themselves prohibit. As a result a successful revolution leads to a significant abrogation of one set of institutions in favour of another during which the society in question is not fully governed by institutions at all.

The crisis that heralds a revolution weakens the role of political institutions to the extent that an increasing number of individuals become alienated from political life and behave more and more eccentrically within it. Eventually as the crisis worsens many of them become committed to some concrete proposals for the reconstruction of society on a new institutional framework.

At this point the society or country is divided into two major competing camps or parties, one trying to defend the old tottering institutional substructure perhaps by proposing cosmetic reforms to placate those on the opposing side, the other working for radical change. Once that polarisation crystallises and the revolutionary Rubicon is crossed, political recourse fails.

Because they do not agree on the kind of institutional foundation within which political change is to be achieved and calibrated, because the opposing sides do not have consensus on some overarching parameters for resolving their differences, the conflicting parties during a revolution must finally resort to the techniques of mass persuasion, often necessitating the use of violence.

Thus although revolutions have played a vital role in the evolution of political institutions, that role is premised on their being extrapolitical or extrainstitutional occurrences or events. Historically speaking, at the beginning revolutions even when successful tend to leave society in a worse condition, although after all the dust has settled and if leaders of the movement happen to be men and women of critical intelligence, creative imagination, integrity, self-discipline and selflessness, the rebuilding process will gradually begin to yield concrete positive results.

Therefore it is a dangerous delusion to think that a successful revolution is like flipping a switch that will automatically transform a decadent society to an Eldorado.

In an important sense a successful revolution is like the successful delivery of a new baby, and inconveniences of pregnancy for the potential mother and birth pangs during labour are analogous to the pain and suffering that often accompany revolutions.

In that regard a political revolution is costly both in terms of human and material resources, which means that those intending to embark on it must think very long and hard before committing themselves and others to the cause. They must be clear-headed with respect to its core objectives and means of realising them, and operate with single-minded determination to succeed against all odds.

Mental stamina or toughness, resilience and huge personal sacrifices and, above all, unwavering passion, commitment and creativity are desiderata for successful revolutionary praxis – revolutions are not for the faint-hearted. Only a deep appreciation of and understanding that revolutions involve life and death situations can generate the mental attributes needed to lead a revolution successfully.

In revolutions halfway measures are futile and counterproductive. The failure of attempted revolutions in Nigeria is probably due to the absence of the right combination of factors highlighted above.

Having discussed the nature of revolutions in the preceding paragraphs, it is time to analyse the EndSARS movement (or ESM from now onwards) as an attempted revolution with the primary objective of complete overhaul of law enforcement agencies and of governance in Nigeria as a whole.

The ESM dates back to 2017 when a section of Nigerian youths used the hashtag to share their unpalatable experiences regarding unwarranted violence and assault committed by the now defunct Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The matter died down afterwards but was revived on October 3 this year when a message that went viral on social media indicated that SARS officers shot dead a young man, snatched his car and sped off with it.

The person who recorded the video was heard yelling frantically at anyone watching the video to see what had happened. As the video circulated widely the hashtag EndSARS gathered momentum leading to justifiably angry Nigerians mostly in Lagos and a few cities demanding that the SARS unit of the Nigerian police must be disbanded.

As the protests spread across the southern states and some celebrities publicly recounting embarrassing stories of harassment, intimidation, extortion, brutality and fatalities by the police, vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labour and employment, and the inspector-general of police, Mohammed Adamu, tried to fulfil all righteousness by issuing controversial statements that further infuriated protesters.

For example, whereas Osinbajo disclosed how he and President Muhammadu Buhari had discussed the issue of police reforms,  more than twenty-four hours after the unfortunate incident that triggered the demonstrations occurred Keyamo, exuding an irritating what’s-the-big-deal attitude, announced that the victim of the gunshot survived and was being treated in hospital.

To be continued

VANGUARD

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